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Social Selling And What It Means To Your Business

Social sellingThere’s an old and overused quote in business that says “nothing happens until someone sells something”. While it’s obviously an oversimplification, there’s something to say for sales being the very core of your business. No sales, no revenue, no business.

However, sales is a broad term and it has gone through a lot of changes throughout the years. From feature-based selling (this is what my product or service will do for you) in the 70’s  and 80’s  to a more consultative approach with value-based selling (this is what my product or service can mean to your business) in the 90’s.

If you ask me what sales will look like in the years to come, social selling is the first word that comes to mind. Many will argue that sales has always been a social activity, and of course they’re right. Building, developing and leveraging relationships has always been the strength of every top performer.

What’s new with social selling, however, is that this social aspect has taken on a whole new dimension. With the adoption of web 2.0 and social media it has moved from industry conferences, trade associations and golf courses to the online world. For this reason many people speak of ‘sales 2.0’.

Some call it a revolution, some call it a buzzword. The truth is that it’s changing the way we sell and do business. Let’s take a look at what Sales 2.0 could mean to your business:

Cheap market intelligence

Who remembers the old days when market intelligence came from expensive professional analysts or traveling sales people? Now it’s as simple as setting up Google Alerts to monitor activity in your industry, keep an eye on your competitors and see what customers are saying about you. It’s real-time and it’s free.

Increased visibility

One of the first things I recommend salespeople and business owners to do is to build an online presence. This generally includes starting a blog, getting active on various social media platforms and producing video content. Present  yourself as an expert in your field and speak in a unique voice. It’s the single best way to build trust and authority and make prospects come to you instead of the other way around. Put your online info on your business card and make it easy for people to find you. If you’re not visible, you don’t exist. It’s not only who you know, it’s who knows you.

New prospects

Did you know the world’s largest sales database is free and accessible 24/7? It’s called LinkedIn and it has all info you need to find prospects, research them and make the initial contact. Take a closer look at how you’re connected. Do you have a shared background , any common interests or some mutual contacts? Maybe you can ask someone else to introduce you? Make sure to join groups where your prospects hang out, engage with them and provide value with every single visit. It only takes half an hour a day.

Better account management

Research has shown that it costs six to seven times more to acquire  a new customer than to keep an existing one, so most companies understand the value of customer loyalty and retention. Fortunately it has never been easier to keep in touch with your customer base and maintain, develop and leverage that relationship. Facebook pages, Twitter accounts and e-mail lists allow you to communicate and interact with your customers on a personal level and do it on a continuous basis, something past generations of business owners could only have dreamed of.

More Referrals

Referrals are everywhere on the internet. In fact, the internet is nothing more than a web of referrals. Every Facebook ‘like’ or link to another website is a recommendation, every positive tweet on your product a free testimonial. Word of mouth is probably the most powerful form of advertising and now is the best time to take advantage. Ask people to share your content and reach out to other people in their network.

Improved sales and marketing alignment

Sales and marketing used to be clearly defined and distinct activities. Marketing provided the leads, sales worked them. This has changed now that salespeople have joined the online conversation and participate in lead generation efforts. They have left their islands and have become part of the overall branding strategy. This leads to a better mutual understanding between sales and marketing and new creative input.

Now do I say older, traditional methods are dead? No. Postcards still work and I’ve just finished a report on a very effective cold calling method. Social selling doesn’t replace the old way of doing business, it just makes things easier and offers extra opportunities. Don’t leave them on the table.

About Wim Wilmsen

Wim Wilmsen is a digital sales and marketing expert with a passion for helping organizations maximize their online potential. He loves to share tips on how to build, develop and leverage customer relationships. You can find him on LinkedIn.

19 comments

  1. Hi Wim,

    I was the head of sales and marketing and liked what you mention that the two areas have now the same objective.  I started blogging 3 months ago to understand more about blogging because just reading about the benefits didn’t mean much to me.  Just only 3 months online, I finally see the power of blogging and the visibility that it gives you.  It makes sense for businesses to join in especially as it requires a relatively low amount of investment to get started.

     

    1. Hi Diana, sorry it took me a while to get back to you here!

      It’s true what you say, it’s hard to see the full potential of blogging if you’re not giving it a try yourself. Great to see you took the plunge. It increases visibility, develops friendships and relationships in and outside your field and lands you new business. A great advantage, like you said, is that you can determine yourself how much time and money you are willing to spend on it.

      Going over to your place now!
      Wim

  2. Wim! Awesome to see you on here my man! Great post, clearly displaying your expertise in the field of sales and marketing. As Charles said below, younger people such as myself find it a little harder to fathom the development of sales techniques; but only because we weren’t there to witness it first hand. However, I think the most takeaway from this post is that people, regardless of their age, need to embrace the new concept of “social selling” (great concept by the way), because it ain’t going nowhere!

    Great post, very informative. Speak soon

    1. Hey Robert, thanks for stopping by! Yeah, it’s challenging to embrace the concept of social selling, because we have a few different mental models for how to interact with people, and we see the social and business interactions as distinct; it can be strange, or even uncomfortable to create an overlap. It’s do-able and worthwhile (and very appropriate), but it requires some mental re-framing. 🙂

    2. Hey Robert, thanks for stopping by! Yeah, it’s challenging to embrace the concept of social selling, because we have a few different mental models for how to interact with people, and we see the social and business interactions as distinct; it can be strange, or even uncomfortable to create an overlap. It’s do-able and worthwhile (and very appropriate), but it requires some mental re-framing. 🙂

      1. Hey Danny, thanks for featuring this post. 

        Certainly. I’d like to think of myself as one of those who embraces the changes! I’m sure you are too! 

        I’ve realised how important it is to be adaptable and dynamic in business, and selling and marketing is no different. 🙂

        1. Hi Robert, thanks for your kind words! The very fact that you’re blogging means that you understand online communication better than 90% of the people on this planet. Sometimes we tend to get caught up in our blogosphere with all new technologies (wordpress plugins, social media networks,…) that we forget we’re doing stuff most people have not even heard of, so it’s nice to put things in perspective once in a while.

          Like Danny said, the 2.0 world we’re living in asks for a different mindset and the sooner you own this mindset, the better you’ll do in business.

          Talk soon,
          Wim

          1. You’re welcome. 

            Yeah it is nice to take a step back and put things in perspective.

            Yeah as I said, we all need to embrace the changes, including a change in mindset 🙂

            Great post mate, speak soon

  3. Nice post, Wim!

    I like the step-by-step analysis of the importance of investing in social selling. It amazes me that some people still view relationship building as a waste of time or the equivalent of surfing. Social networking and social selling are NOT mutually exclusive (although if employees are spending more time putting their fantasy football team together online than getting in touch with prospects, there might need to be a little chat about priorities), and they’re both founded on the idea that you offer value to someone else. Whether that’s a friendship, a product, or both, the same reasons for investing apply.

    1. Hey Jana, I think the real issue is that the valuable relationship building will sometimes look an awful lot like the fantasy football stuff – it can be hard for an outsider to know which is which, and even harder to measure the effectiveness.

      Not to mention that you can do all the relationship building work, and not take it to the point of making a sale, in which case an organization could legitimately see it as a time-waster.

      You’re absolutely right, Jana – whether it’s a friendship or a business relationship, the same reasons for investing apply – as long as you know what your goals are! 🙂

      1. Hi Jana, great to see you here 🙂

        It’s true that the boundaries between “fun” and building valuable business relationships are not always very clear. It’s one of the primary objections I face when I try to sell business owners or sales managers on the idea of social selling, also because it can take a while before results start coming in. Therefore I generally recommend to start implementing social media for only half an hour a day and then evaluate after 6 to 9 months. This should give a good indication of the effectiveness.

        Danny, I like your second point btw, many people interact online and build relationships, but they “forget” the final step, often because they are afraid to come across as pushy or insincere. Always keep your goal in mind. Of course you’re there to help others, provide value and build relationships, but your end goal is the sale (or getting a good introduction, referral,…). If you’ve done you job right, understand social media and the principles of online communication, this transition to actually asking for the sale should come very naturally.

        Wim

        1. Yup, I agree – and a lot of it comes down to really believing in what you’re offering. If you know that it will help the person you’re talking to, then it’s selfish and irresponsible NOT to ask for the sale.

    2. Hey Jana, I think the real issue is that the valuable relationship building will sometimes look an awful lot like the fantasy football stuff – it can be hard for an outsider to know which is which, and even harder to measure the effectiveness.

      Not to mention that you can do all the relationship building work, and not take it to the point of making a sale, in which case an organization could legitimately see it as a time-waster.

      You’re absolutely right, Jana – whether it’s a friendship or a business relationship, the same reasons for investing apply – as long as you know what your goals are! 🙂

  4. I’ve been in sales and marketing positions for more than two decades and I think it’s hard for younger people to realize how things have changed. We never had those tools and opportunities that come with the internet/technogolgy/SM, so don’t take it for granted and make use of it!! You did a great job at pointing out the benefits, Wim

    1. Hi Charles,

      You’re right, we sometimes take technology for granted, especially the younger generations (I’m only 26 myself btw). We practically live online and don’t always value the opportunities the internet has created for us.

      However, there’s also a positive side to this. Online communication has become so “natural” to us that we know how to contact people and build relationships in an informal way, whereas for the “older folks” this might come with some challenges.

      Thanks a lot for your input,
      Wim

    2. Hi Charles, welcome to Firepole Marketing. I agree that Wim did a great job with this post, and you’re right – it’s hard for us younger folk (I’ll be turning 28 in July) to appreciate what it was like to do business a few decades ago… we shouldn’t take these new opportunities for granted!

    3. Hi Charles, welcome to Firepole Marketing. I agree that Wim did a great job with this post, and you’re right – it’s hard for us younger folk (I’ll be turning 28 in July) to appreciate what it was like to do business a few decades ago… we shouldn’t take these new opportunities for granted!

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